Keeping Track: household debt

More personal income used to pay bills, mortgage

As the holidays - and holiday shopping - approach, many consumers resort to credit cards to pay for gifts. The resulting debt can be daunting.

According to the Federal Reserve Board, which tracks debt burden as a percentage of personal income on a quarterly basis, US households pay somewhere between 11 and 14 percent of their disposable income (that is, all income after taxes) on required payments for mortgage and consumer debt.

In the past few years, that percentage has been steadily rising. For the second quarter of 2001 (the latest figures available), 14.04 percent of household income went to such debt payments.

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